Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Southern Hemisphere Observing.

I've just returned from holidays in Australia and an opportunity for some southern hemisphere observing, which is a first for me.  The main blog for the holiday can be found here but for the astro specific observations, read on!
On the whole, there were few true observing opportunities either down to weather, or just not having a sensible scope or binoculars with me.  However, I had taken my Sky and Telescope Pocket Atlas with me, and one evening whilst parked up in the camper van, I had a chance to sit outside and start to familiarise myself with the constellations and stars of the southern climbs. During that evening, once my night vision was as good as it was going to get in the local conditions, I thought I was able to make out an open cluster in Scorpius.  After a little while longer of staring and referring to the star atlas, I determined that I was actually looking at M7.  The only optics I had with me were a small pair of pocket binoculars, so they would have to do.  Nevertheless, they were enough to bring out the cluster quite nicely.  Whilst observing in that area of the sky, I also came across another cluster that I then determined to be M6, The Butterfly Cluster.  I was very pleased to be able to tick off these Messier objects as first views.
Later in the holiday, we found ourselves on Kangaroo Island.  This is a very sparsely populated corner of South Australia.  Most of the island is given to agriculture, national parks and wildlife reserves.  We were in quite a remote cabin with almost 360 horizon views all around with the exception of a tree and our cabin. We had one observable night here, although we had a lot of disruption of banks of passing cloud.  Fortunately, the wind was pushing them through quite rapidly.  We made several observations, again re-visiting M6 and M7, but also naked eye views of the SMC and LMC.  I took the chance to take some photographs in between cloud breaks.

The LMC and SMC can be made out in this wide view photo.
A shot of the Milky way as seen in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, we were always up against it with the cloud!

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